Today we hauled a couple of horses over to my brother’s place. He and his in-laws run a bison ranch. We were riding in his arena, watching a couple bison bulls, around 1300lbs each, battle it out in a neighboring pen. It was fascinating to watch, and I was grateful for the heavy duty steel fencing separating us. It reminded us of our summer adventure to Theodore Roosevelt National Park in Medora, North Dakota.
I’ve ridden in the park many times before with my family. We bring our own horses and camp in a neighboring state park. This year, we took my son, Tall R, for his first ride out west. It’s beautiful country, the trails are relatively easy and there is plethora of wildlife. But what we failed to consider was that August is also peak rut for the wild bison herds.
At one point, on an all day ride across the river, we got stuck on the back of a small knoll as a herd of bison blocked the only trail between plateaus. The bulls were growling and bellowing to push the cows up the trail. They were terrifyingly loud. We rode our horses as far away from the herd as we could get them (which only was about 50ft), without falling off the steep drop on the back of the knoll. We had to keep our horses as still and quiet as we could for the 20-30 minutes it took for 100 or so bison to pass. It was an incredible experience, and one I never wish to relive. My son, however, is hooked. He loved it. We are hoping to be able to ride in the Big Horns this summer. I think I’m game……my dad tells me there are no bison herds or grizzly bears in the Big Horns.